New wheel chair received on August 19th.
Just as the inpatient program was ending Jared received his new wheel chair. This is a chair that Jared picked out and had a number of different options selected to his liking. The frame, wheels, seat, brakes, and type of material it is made of and the color all can be personalized. From what we saw for options when making these selections Jared was happy with all of the choices. Unfortunately insurance does not cover all of these options and of course there are up charges when making changes. The new chair arrived the night before we were to be discharged so the final fitting and adjustments were a bit rushed to say the least. Overall the chair was what Jared was hoping for but a number of the options he had requested were not received at the time of delivery so we had to wait until we returned for the day program to have those added.
The options he had requested that we did not receive were a Smart Drive, Disc Brakes and a single caster wheel for the front of the chair. The Smart Drive helps to push the chair when going long distance and up hills. Even the slightest incline can become a big challenge to get up when you are in a wheel chair with Jared’s level of injury. In fact Jared’s level of injury qualifies him for an electric wheel chair. The unfortunate situation is that the insurance company would pay the 18K to 20K price tag for the electric wheel chair because of his injury level but they will not cover the $6200.00 cost for a Smart Drive. Jared does not want to be in an electric chair so he can get stronger and improve his independence. The Smart Drive is just the added push he needs to help him overcome his weakness until he gets stronger. It also allows him to be more independent when traveling as the Smart drive is very small and portable unlike the 400lb electric chair. The problem we face is if Jared stays in the manual chair without the Smart Drive he could possibly over use his arms and damage his shoulders before he is able to get them strong enough to get him where he needs to go. So we now need to decide do we get him the electric chair now and not have a manual chair or do we get the manual chair and pay for the Smart Drive out-of-pocket. The frustrating thing for us is the manual chair plus the Smart Drive is still thousands less than the electric chair and it is a much better combination for Jared’s long term independence but the insurance company does not look at it that way so we are stuck. The funny part is if Jared goes with the manual chair without the Smart Drive, injures his shoulders and can’t push the manual chair then the insurance will cover the electric chair effectively paying for both chairs in the end.
The disc brakes were thought to help with going down hills as the Smart Drive only pushes the chair. When you go downhill with the Smart Drive on it just increase the speed which can be very dangerous to say the least. What the user has to do is turn off the Smart Drive when going downhill and manually brake the chair. This again is very difficult for someone with Jared’s level of injury as all he can do is press his hands and wrists against the outer side of the push wheel to create friction and braking. The thought was to have disc brakes added so Jared would be able to apply some braking action without fully locking the wheels. Most all of the wheel chair brakes are designed to hold the chair in a stationary position and are not intended to slow the chair. The disc brakes however can do both. The problems we ran into were that Jared can only use one hand to brake so both wheels needed to be connected to one lever. This had the potential of turning the chair if one wheel or brake were to grab more than the other. Also to have the brakes installed would be an additional 3K plus and we were just not going to spend that much on something we could not test first to make sure it would work as expected and provide Jared with the control he was looking for.
The last item is the front castor or FreeWheel. This easily attached to the front of the chair with a built-in clamp system that Jared can operate himself. The FreeWheel lifts the front small caster wheels off the ground and provides a larger single wheel that can easily go over rough terrain. Jared is hoping this will make taking his chair on our gravel driveway and down to our pond much easier. We have just received this unit today and it looks like it may provide the needed assistance to navigate those rough areas. It does make the chair more challenging to steer but we still need to make some adjustments so with any luck we will be able to adjust the FreeWheel and Jared will be able to easily get down to the pond and maybe even do a little fishing.
Fortunately as we are back at the Shepherd Center they do have a seating clinic and technician’s that can make adjustments to Jared’s chair. We had them make several adjustments yesterday as there were so many little things Jared wanted to have adjusted to have the fit of the chair just right. We will use the chair for the next few days to see if everything works as expected or if some additional changes are needed. The nice thing about this wheel chair is that everything is adjustable so with some time we will be able to get it to fit Jared just as he wants it. I never knew how much effort went into getting a chair to fit correctly. I just assumed that you would get a chair that was your size and that would do it. With Jared being in the chair for most of the day it is much more important to get the right fit. Nothing like the wheel chair I used for school when I had a broken leg. The improvements in wheel chair technology over the years is amazing.